EDU 6526- Module Three: Non-linguistic Representations


According to Dean et al. (2012), non-linguistic representations (NLR) can be utilized through a variety of strategies to create mental images and sensory experiences of educational content.  Psychologists believe memory is stored two ways, linguistically and non-linguistically.  When teachers implement NLRs, students are provided with tools to more holistically process, organize and retrieve information.  The text provides five strategies for implementing NLRs and recommends maximization of effectiveness by utilizing these strategies in tandem with one another.  The text also provides examples of how each of the five strategies could manifest in a lesson.  I will share ideas I have for implementing these five strategies into a classroom with regards to supporting acquisition of content/language.

  1. Graphic organizer in conjunction with kinesthetic activity

I taught a mini-lesson for reading workshop last year that integrated these two NLRs and it was successful for my kindergarteners.  To teach the -ing ending we first collaborated to create a graphic organizer with approximately 20 words (enough words for each student to volunteer at least one word).  I explained that when an action word or verb has the -ing ending it is happening right now, “so, we are going to make all these action words happen right now with our bodies!”  Then, we worked together to come up with an action for each word.  As the class agreed upon a movement for a word , we would all stand up and perform the action.

  1. Physical models/manipulatives

As a Pre-K Assistant teacher, my partner and I taught an integrated studies lesson built around a read-aloud of Charlotte’s Web.  We studied spiders, and found many medias to explore this learning with students.  One of the most meaningful was a lesson where we guided students through building large spider webs from sticks and yarn.  The students gained a practiced appreciation for the craft of building a web, and new respect for spiders.  Then we guided students through building spiders to live in the webs.  As the students built my co-teacher and I engaged the students in discussion about the physical make-up of spiders and their webs.  They internalized and retained the language associated with this unit in a sustained way as they built these models.

  1. Mental pictures in conjunction with creating illustrations, pictures, and pictographs

I would like work with ELLs in language acquisition, and think that mental pictures combined with having students draw could be an effective strategy for student’s internalizing new vocabulary.  I do not know how this would look in a lesson so this is my research for the week.  My vision is having Ells tell a personal story through creating a simple graphic story that we work on starting through guided mental imagery.

  1. Graphic organizers, physical models, mental pictures, creating pictures, and kinesthetic activity

Dean et al. (2012), describe a dramatic play that is created by elementary students as means to acquiring the German language.  A teacher can utilize graphic organizers, physical models, mental pictures, creating pictures, and kinesthetic activity to have students stage a meaningful dramatic production.  I think the opportunity for a class to create and perform a play collaboratively lends itself to meaningful language acquisition.  I know a fifth grade teacher who has approximately 25% Spanish speaking ELLs in her class each year.  She always facilitates the production of a play that has a high interest subject for the students.  She utilizes all of the aforementioned NLRs in her teaching for this unit.  She says that ELLs experience a remarkable increase in language acquisition as a result of engaging in this unit.  In addition the whole class develops a deep understanding of an enriching topic.  Last year her play centered on animals and plants that live in the Sequoia Redwood Forest.

I reflected on my ability to implement NLR’s over the course of internship work, and found that I am emergent with this instructional strategy.  I struggled with the choice between implementing the anchor chart (a common NLR with early primary students) as a collaborative activity where the students help to make the chart, and as a chart that I have prepared.  I believe that preparing an anchor chart ahead of time saves valuable instruction time that should be focused on the learning target, and engagement with practice support.  So, I will need to find other opportunities for engaging students in constructing lesson materials, and create lesson anchor charts that are highly effective as instructional tools.

Dean et al. (2012), illuminate that our society is moving beyond a text-based culture to include all forms of communication.  I think expanded communication mediums are a product of global communication that allows citizens to exchange ideas regardless of language barriers.  Empowering 21st Century children to share ideas on a global level is one reason for implementing effective NLRs.  Additionally, research indicates that all  students can experience meaningful and sustained understanding of new knowledge when we include meaningful and clear non-linguistic representations in our daily lessons.



Dean, C.B. Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. 2012. Classroom instruction that works; research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.



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